Reading newspapers makes you smarter (and more employable)

Wouldn’t it be nice if there was a smart pill that could turn us all into Albert Einstein reincarnates?

Well, there’s not, bozo.

Becoming smarter doesn’t just happen overnight, it takes a concerted daily effort to build your smarts (apparently crosswords and coffee help too).

One such daily effort to boost your brain power is that of the humble newspaper.

Aside from keeping up with the Kardashians, reading the newspaper helps you become more aware of the things happening in the world around you. It also introduces you to unfamiliar cultures and events that you don’t normally hear about. You’ll learn to form your own opinions on world events and issues, plus you’ll have a lot more to talk about at the water cooler.

At the Institute of Careers, we’ve encountered more than a few instances of job-hunters oozing confidence on their way to interviews, only to walk away feeling as smart as Homer Simpson. And it’s not through lack of knowledge about their profession or the organisation they want to work in, but of the world around them.

As an icebreaker, it’s not uncommon for potential employers to kick off the interview with, “Did you hear about so and so in the news this morning?” The last thing you want is to draw a blank and look like you have no idea what they’re talking about.

Hiring managers want to know they’re recruiting the best of the best, and if you want to be the best, you have to stay abreast of what’s happening in your own backyard, at the very least.

Here are a few other daily habits that you can do to become smarter:

Get lost. Finding your way back from a lost at sea moment will develop your spatial awareness. Most people take the same route to work every day. Over time, the brain’s capacity to navigate declines. To train your brain’s spatial intelligence, start by taking a new, unfamiliar route home.

Exercise. Eat well. Laugh often. A healthy body leads to a healthy mind. When you exercise, you increase blood flow to your brain, keeping it in top-notch condition. Laughing has also been shown to increase your intelligence and make your brain sharper (LOL).

Step outside your zone. If you surround yourself with the same people every day, and do the same things every day, you aren’t exactly learning anything. Mix things up a bit – make an effort to talk to one new person a day, or try one new thing. You might be surprised at what you discover.

Meditate. Aside from being an awesome stress reliever, meditation can increase your intelligence – just ask the Dalai Lama. Meditation trains the brain to focus and quieten the mind chatter. But you don’t need to become a monk to increase your brain capacity, all it takes is a quick five minute meditation each day to increase your intelligence and attentiveness in daily life.

Say no to Netflix. Don’t rule it out entirely, but limit the amount of time you spend glued to the box. Most programs are designed for maximum impact with minimum effort. If your motto is Netflix and chill, you’ll know what we’re on about. If you do this regularly, your brain will become less capable of thinking intelligent thoughts, just as an unfit body will be less capable of running a marathon.

Watch TED. Contrary to the previous point, TED videos are worth watching. TED.com contains some of the best videos to help you learn new things. Whether it’s learning about augmented reality or electroshock therapy, TED has it all. Tune in on your lunch break for a quick dose of the smarts.

Category: 
Interview, Job Search, Resume

Job hopping: Why it’s not such a bad thing

Back in the day, a CV that jumped from job to job would raise the red flag to prospective employers about their candidates’ ability to commit.

While the notion of “job-hopping” was fiercely frowned upon not so long ago, a new generation of young professionals reckon job-hopping is a bona fide jump to the Next Big Thing – and we at the Institute of Careers agree.

According to research, the average employment tenure in Australia is 3.4 years. Leading the way are Gen Y professionals who view job-hopping as a way to gain broad skills and experience, improve salary and conditions, expand their networks and try different roles until they find the perfect professional and cultural fit, because… culture!

Most organisations will always place a high value on stability, loyalty and commitment, yet some employers are now starting to welcome the shift, viewing early-career mobility as a sign of ambition and enthusiasm.

In today’s competitive marketplace, employers who are set in their old school ways and rule out job-hoppers might be missing out on some serious talent.

Job-hoppers are often top performers who change jobs because they are; headhunted by other companies; want to work for a more prestigious or successful brand; learn new skills; climb the career ladder; earn more dosh or; align themselves with a company that offers a better cultural environment.

Here are two main reasons why job-hopping isn’t a bad thing:

Reason 1: You’ll learn more

A huge drawback of staying in the same job or company for too long is that you can begin to feel like you’re not growing or developing new skills. When you try something new, you experience and learn different skills that broaden your professional attributes, making you more attractive to employers.

Reason 2: Money, money, money

When people change jobs, one of their main motivators is a pay rise. When done right, job-hopping could help you earn more money as you climb up the career ladder. Just remember to factor in other aspects of the role, such as annual leave, benefits and flexible work hours.

Here are two reasons why employers value a job-hopper:

Reason 1: Industry knowledge

When an organisation employs a job-hopper, they usually have immediate access to a valuable source of accumulated industry knowledge, contacts and experience from working with a broad range of companies, and competitors, within the sector.

Reason 2: They make an effort

While employers are sometimes wary of hiring job-hoppers for fear they won’t stick around, job-hoppers are motivated and proactive self-starters who require little management. People who change jobs every few years tend to be conscious of their CV, wanting it to demonstrate new skills, performance and improved expertise. As a result, they’re always looking to value-add and do great work, which is obviously a benefit to the employer, even if they only stick around a couple of years.   

So what’s the optimal time to stay? The ideal time to stay at any one job is approximately two years. By that time you will have developed indepth knowledge and skills. Frequently ask yourself, am I still learning and growing? If the answer’s no, it may be time to move on.

Category: 
Job Search, Resume

How to Research a Role

One of the most common questions you will find yourself asked in an interview is “What do you know about our company?”. It can sometimes feel awkward telling the interview panel what they already know, but this demonstrates that you are well prepared, and also genuinely interested in the position.

The Position Description

Read the Position Description thoroughly. This is your first insight into the position and has all of the most important information that you need to know. If there are any terms you don't understand make the effort to look each of them up so that you won't be caught off guard in the interview. If you have any questions, make note of them so that you can ask when the opportunity arises. Make sure that you check to see if there is a more detailed Position Description or any other additional information attached to the advertisement.

Human Resources

Many job advertisements will list a phone number for enquiries about the role, and some will even encourage you to call them for a chat before applying. Talking with a real person can help you to understand the workplace culture and how the role fits into the organisation. If you make a good impression this conversation may also help you to stand out from the crowd when shortlisting occurs.

Company website

This is your most valuable resource for understanding the identity that the company wants to present to the public. Read About Us and History sections to find out how the company has evolved. Have a look at Team pages to understand the corporate structure, and possibly research the interview panel. Read any News or Blog pages for ideas on conversation points and questions to bring up during your interview. Values and Mission Statements will also allow you to decide how you would like to present yourself in the interview, you can play up certain elements of your personality and skills that this particular organisation considers desirable, while downplaying others which may be at odds with their culture.

LinkedIn

This social media and networking tool is playing an increasingly large role in bridging the gap between employers and job seekers. Many companies will have a LinkedIn profile for the organisation itself, as well as many of the key players in management and people who may end up being part of your team. You can also see news, profiles and links that the company has posted, which will sometimes be different to their more formal website content, providing a different insight into the public persona of the organisation.

Google Search

It can often be handy to use Google to look into a prospective workplace. The company may have online reviews, be listed in connection with recent news stories, or have a wide range of information detailed on their Wikipedia page. Just remember, if it wasn't posted by an official source it may not necessarily be accurate!

Category: 
Interview, Job Search